The Soulsville Foundation’s Stax Music Academy is holding its fourth annual #MusicMustContinue fundraising campaign with a special twist: All donations up to $25,000 are matched 100% by the Berger Family in celebration of the life of Brenda Berger O’Brien. This is the second year in a row the Berger family has generously matched all #MusicMustContinue donations.
Brenda Berger O’Brien, longtime Pancho’s Restaurant and Cheese Dip owner/president, songwriter, philanthropist, fan of Memphis music, and friend of the Stax Music Academy, passed away in May 2022. Her family donated $50,000 to establish the Brenda Berger O’Brien Memorial Scholarship Fund. This fund is a matching gift for 2022 and 2023 #MusicMustContinue donations and will assist with tuition costs for families who qualify for financial aid. Brenda was an avid supporter of Stax Music Academy students and alumni. She dedicated her time and money to supporting Memphis’ next generation of great musicians. Please join us in celebrating her life and legacy with a donation to the Stax Music Academy.
Stax Music Academy – which performed with Booker T. Jones of Booker T. & the M.G.’s at Lincoln Center on June 12, 2023 and performs tonight at the Halloran Center in preparation for opening for Kidz Bop in Nashville on January 28, 2023 – is the Mid-South’s only performing arts institute in the world that focuses on the legacy of Stax Records and the Memphis Sound. It provides support for rising 5th graders through 12th grade, and alumni support continues through age 25. The Academy gives opportunity and hope through music education, mental wellness, and social emotional learning to many young students in Memphis. Since launching the #MusicMustContinue, the academy has raised over $150,000 for music education and mentoring. All money donated to #MusicMustContinue is used to provide tuition assistance for qualifying families. A Stax Music Academy education cost $10,000 per student every year, but the most any family ever pays is $1,000. Some of our families pay as little as $200 per year thanks to the money raised each year during #MusicMustContinue.
More about Breda Berger O’Brien and Family:
O’Brien’s parents, Morris and Clemmye Berger, founded one of the most famous nightclubs in the South in 1943, the Plantation Inn Nite Club just across the river in West Memphis, Arkansas. It became famous as a gambling hall-turned supper club and one of the few nightspots in the region that allowed white patrons to listen to live music by Black artists. It was, according to the late, legendary music producer Jim Dickinson, where all Memphis music got its start. It was also where O’Brien met an array of blues, soul, and rock and roll artists including Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, B.B. King, Johnny Cash, Ben Branch, Willie Mitchell, Isaac Hayes, Floyd Newman, Gene “Bowlegs” Miller, Phineas Newborn, Sr., and his sons Calvin Newborn and Phineas Newborn, Jr.
More About #MusicMustContinue
In 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Stax Music Academy closed for in-person music education and youth development programming and switched immediately to a virtual experience. We also made the decision to suspend all tuition, partly because of the new learning curve and because so many of our families were so negatively affected financially by the coronavirus.
In July 2020 we launched our first #MusicMustContinue fundraising campaign to ensure that we never turn a young person away because of the inability for their families to pay even the small amount of tuition we charge (most families pay only $200 a year). Our donors and sponsors stepped up to the plate and helped us raise over $150,000 for tuition assistance since launching the campaign in 2020. #MusicMustContinue became an annual fundraiser that allows us to offer such deeply discounted tuition and to invite all young people interested in music to participate in some of our endeavors.